I have always felt a deep connection to St. Francis of Assisi, the Christian saint best known for his love of nature, animals, and the poor. In the early 1980’s I lived in Holy Protection monastery, a Byzantine Eastern-Rite Franciscan monastery. This was where I was professed as a 3rd Order, Secular Franciscan.
Born at Assisi in the year 1182, St. Francis came from a wealthy family. Although he spent his early years enjoying the material benefits of wealth, he soon recognized the shallowness of his lifestyle, and renounced his inherited wealth. He chose instead a simple life of poverty, which allowed him to fully devote himself to God and his calling.
It was the combination of St. Francis’s life and Eastern Christian spirituality that formed the basis for my faith, and it was because of the teachings of St. Francis that I remained a Catholic. He showed me that love for Christ, love for Nature, and love for each other is all one and the same. I’ve found that the more I learn about learn about and connect with Nature, the more I learn about and connect with God.
The life and teachings of St. Francis and other saints demonstrate that we are capable of much more than the ordinary “state of life” in which we often find ourselves. Francis did not desire ever to be a priest because it was not his vocation, and he was too humble to desire the rank of such a vocation. Francis showed me that our destiny is not to think in terms of having a career or a job. It is to think in terms of a vocation and a mission where we can be free to “be” as God would desire us to be.
I always want to position myself in life to respond to God’s call. This is what St. Francis discovered and what gave him such joy. He has forever influenced my life, and for this I honor him and am grateful. The teaching is simple: Whatever we do, it must enable us to love God more deeply and put us on the path He desires for us.
As the founder of the Franciscan order, the inspiration of St. Francis endures through his work and his teachings. He died in 1226, at the age of 44. October 4th is the day set aside each year to celebrate the life of this kind and gentle saint. On this day, I take time to read and reflect on one of his most beloved poems. For me, this simple poem is the essence of living a life of service to God, with kindness and love for my fellow human beings and all living creatures.
The Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.